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Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory

Film Studies lecturer Dr Victor Fan celebrates the release of his new book, Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory

Victor Fan Book
Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory

Victor Fan Book

Film Studies lecturer Dr Victor Fan is celebrating the release of his new book, Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory.

It examines ways in which Chinese and Euro-American film theorists conceptualize reality and cinema - they are brought together for the first time, to engage in critical debates about film in Shanghai and Hong Kong from the 1920s through the 1940s. 

Dr Fan introduces bizhen, a term popularly employed by Chinese film critics during this period, which is often translated as “lifelike” but best understood as “approaching reality".

He suggests that the phrase “approaching reality” can help to reconsider a blind spot that influential French film critic André Bazin wrestled with: the cinematographic image is a trace of reality, yet reality is absent in the cinematographic image, and the cinema makes present this absence as it reactivates the passage of time. 

In the book Bazinian cinematic meaning is enriched with discussions on cinematic reality in Republican China and colonial Hong Kong, putting Western theorists—from Bazin and Kracauer to Baudrillard, Agamben, and Deleuze—into dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. 

Victor Fan is lecturer in film studies at King’s College London. He has contributed extensively to academic journals, including ScreenFilm History, and Camera Obscura. Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory is published by University of Minnesota Press.

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Victor Fan

Victor Fan

Reader in Film Studies